Panthers at Sea Program Hit with Slip Fees

LONG BEACH — An inner city high school sailing program that offers many students their first glimpse of the ocean might have difficulty funding this year’s event since Long Beach Harbor now plans on charging the non-profit temporary slip fees.

Panthers at Sea, a program developed 11 years ago by Jordan High School science teacher, Dave Braunstein, offers students the chance to not only see the ocean, but sail on it as certified instructors bring their boats from as far as Seal Beach to teach them how to tack and gibe.

“Last year we had about 130 students from Jordan High Scholl who came out to sail,” said Carlos Cooper, a teacher at Jordan High School and sponsor of the Panthers at Sea Program. “A lot of the kids, believe it or not, grew up here but they’ve never seen the ocean. It’s a nice experience in many ways in terms of exposure to different people they wouldn’t meet otherwise without getting out of the hood; they experience what sailing is all about.”

But the program has run into a major problem this year since the city is requiring the nonprofit pay for the overnight slip fees used the night before the single-day event. The city will charge each of the anticipated 20 boats $1 per foot, explained Bob Vatz. Fees will vary per boat, but the program is looking at a minimum of an additional $600 to their existing expenses.

“We have a program called Adopt a Student and we’re asking for a contribution that’s tax deductible of $20 for the ride out, breakfast, lunch and a t-shirt,” said Vatz, a volunteer with the program.

While the $20 will go to funding much of the program, it won’t cover the slip fees.

This year, fees have been put in place because there’s no more gratuity, said Elvira Hallinan, the interim Marine Bureau manager of Long Beach, at the March 13 Marine Advisory Commission (MAC).

“What used to happen is whenever any non profit would call us and ask us to help them out we would do it, but recently we learned that it isn’t our position to waive this fee,” Hallinan said. “Since council sets the fee there’s no one else that could waive the fee.”

“Slip fees haven’t been an issue up till this year,” Cooper said. “The boat owners were kind of at a loss for words as to why. It’s not for profit, it’s for school and the kids and there are plenty of slips.

“If there were a shortage of slips we’d understand, but there’s plenty of room,” he added.

The MAC commission motioned to support Vatz’ request to wave the slip fees to allow volunteers to dock the boat at Long Beach Marina the night before the sailing event take place on May 10.

But, with little more than a month to get this request passed from Long Beach City Council, MAC Commissioner Rick Duree thinks this could be a challenge.

“Consequently it becomes a snowball effect,” Duree said. “Once one organization gets a pass everybody else will want to do it.”
The motion will go to the director of Parks and Recreation, who will then send a report to city council on how to proceed.             Program directors are scrambling to find adequate funding and secure enough boats for participants.

The Panthers at Sea Program will be held from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, May 10 in Long Beach Harbor. Students will be grouped five-six to a vessel where they’ll learn to sail around and even past the break wall.

Participating students get more out of the program than sailing skills; they also learn the value of teamwork and add a great experience to any college application, Copper said.

“Five of the kids that graduated two or three years ago that really enjoyed this have gone on to college,” Cooper said. “We even get alumni out here.”

The item will be heard at a city council meeting.

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